Salamander Hospitality buys Florida golf resort for $35m

The hospitality company owned by sports magnate Sheila Johnson has ventured into golf course real estate with the acquisition of the Innisbrook resort from Golf Trust of America, a links REIT liquidating its portfolio.

Virginia-based lodging company Salamander Hospitality, owned by Washington Mystics owner Sheila Johnson, has acquired the 900-acre Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Florida for $35 million (€25 million). The seller was South Carolina-based Golf Trust of America, a golf course REIT that has been liquidating its assets in the US since 2001.

The Innisbrook resort, one of its last holdings, is the site of the PGA Tour’s PODS Championship and features four golf courses, five restaurants, six swimming pools, 11 tennis courts and 625 rental units.

“We are very excited to have acquired such a well-respected resort with a history of being among the finest in Florida for outstanding golf and meetings,” Johnson, chief executive officer at Salamander, said in a statement. “Our goal is to elevate this unique resort and golf club to its rightful place as one of America’s most sought after destinations.”

Among her other business ventures, Johnson is president and managing partner of the Washington Mystics women’s professional basketball team and a partner in Lincoln Holdings, which has interests in the Washington Wizards professional basketball team and the Washington Capitals professional hockey team.

Former wife of Robert Johnson, Sheila Johnson worked with her ex-husband to co-found the Black Entertainment Television cable network which was acquired by Viacom in 1997. Robert Johnson is also in the private equity real estate business via RLJ Development, which has invested in 120 hotel properties throughout the US.

The Innisbrook transaction follows a string of golf-related property deals in 2007, most recently CORE Realty Holdings’ $28-million acquisition of The Revere Club in Las Vegas this May. Leisurecorp, a unit of Istithmar, the private equity arm of Dubai’s investment authority, also announced in May that it had bought the Pearl Valley Signature Golf Estate and Spa located in South Africa’s Cape Winelands.

Following the deal, Johnson and Salamander Hospitality president Prem Devadas announced plans to renovate the resort’s numerous amenities including the Island Golf Course, its three clubhouses and over 65,000-square-feet of meeting space. The company will also develop the resort’s first full-service luxury spa and renovate the tennis and fitness facilities.